Ahead of the Russian army’s advance, Germany’s concentration camp prisoners were sent on a forced march. A street in Marienbad, Germany, was part of the route.
It wasn't until Yishay Garbasz was 18 that he discovered that his mother had been born in Germany, in 1929, shortly before Hitler came to power. He probed deeper, and was moved to hear that she had survived Auschwitz, where his grandparents had died.
"My mother just didn't talk about her early life, and I had to persuade her to tell me her story," says Yishay, a Chiang Mai-based Israeli photojournalist. What he heard determined him to record her hazardous journey to her new home in Israel, in words and pictures - a task that would involve a pilgrimage through Germany, Holland, Poland and the Czech Republic.
It took one year, and at the end of it Yishay produced a remarkable book. He visited the former family home in Berlin, the house in Holland where they sought refuge from Germany's Nazi regime, death camps in Germany and Poland where his grandparents died and his mother and aunt miraculously survived. He then traced the path of their forced march, which took them west and away from advancing Russian forces. He illustrated every stage of his mother's agonising route with photographs of remarkable definition and depth, taken with a large format view camera.
The book, "In My Mother's Footsteps", is dedicated to "those who endured the unendurable and those who will bear witness". Its remarkable collection of pictures is being shown at Chiang Mai University until February 10.
When Hitler came to power in 1933, Yishay's grandparents fled to Holland, where they lived happily enough until the outbreak of war and the Nazi invasion of the Low Countries.
Yishay's mother, then still a small girl, told him she remembered how Jews in Holland were required to wear the Star of David and the letter J on their clothes. They were forbidden from using public transport and suffered other restrictions.
Worse was soon to come. Holland's Jews were rounded up and sent to the Dutch concentration camp of Westerbork, from where they were dispatched to death camps in Poland and Germany.
Yishay's grandfather was the first to go, followed by his daughter Fanny. Then Yishay's mother, her sister and his grandmother were sent to Westerbork in November 1942.
Yishay's mother and aunt, though young girls, were put to work in the camp, helping out in the kitchen and in harder jobs outside. They witnessed acts of kindness and even heroism - a violinist, for instance, who livened up the spirits at camp sing-alongs volunteered to accompany a party of orphans on a journey to certain death in Auschwitz.
Theresienstadt was the German concentration camp destined for Yishay's mother, his grandmother and aunt, where they rejoined his grandfather. He captures in one photograph the grim fortress-like entrance that greeted the family.
From Theresienstadt, they were sent to Birkenau-Auschwitz in a railway cattle truck. "There was a bucket in which to relieve yourself and, opposite, a bucket of drinking water."
Yishay shows the chilling "end of the line" at Auschwitz, where the exhausted prisoners were ordered out of the trucks, divided by sex, and marched off, past buildings she later discovered were gas chambers.
His mother and her sister, teenage girls, survived the selection process overseen by the notorious Dr Josef Mengele. They and other inmates had to run naked before the evil doctor, while he singled out those for death or survival by pointing his riding crop right or left. The two girls were ordered left and the numbers tattooed on their arms were noted. Their parents were sent right, to their deaths in the gas chamber. The girls never saw them again.
From Auschwitz, the girls were sent with about 1,000 other women to the Christianstadt labour camp, site of one of Nazi Germany's largest munitions factories.
Yishay's mother celebrated her 16th birthday on January 12, 1945, the sound of gunfire announcing the approach of Russian forces. Her birthday cake was a chunk of bread decorated with greens fished from the soup.
As the Russians drew near, the two sisters were evacuated with other camp inmates. Anyone who couldn't keep up in the forced march was shot. "We heard shots time and again."
The march took them back into Germany, where they were destined for the infamous camp of Flossenburg. But the camp was full and the women marched onwards - learning later that all its inmates had been shot when the guards fled the advancing allies.
The marchers were herded into cattle trucks for the final five days rail journey to Bergen Belsen, where "we saw a column of men in striped pyjamas and we thought: oh, look at those poor men! Not knowing that we looked the same."
There they met up with their aunt, Fanny, who got them work peeling potatoes.
British troops liberated Bergen Belsen, shocked by the conditions they found there. A British soldier laid Yishay's mother on a table to be attended to by a German nurse. "While she cleaned me up, she shook her head and said to the soldier: 'We didn't know, you must believe me'."
The sisters and their aunt had gone to hell and back, surviving unimaginable horrors. They all emigrated to new lives in Israel.
The experience of the Holocaust had been so shattering that at first Yishay's mother didn't want to talk about her lost years. But Yishay's father, Jack Garbasz, one of his own family's few Holocaust survivors, appealed to her on his death bed to tell her story.
Yishay published his book just two weeks before his mother died, in November 2006. When he attended her funeral the book lay on the sitting room table, waiting for all to read.
Citylife, Chiang Mai
The photo exhibition, 'In My Mother's Footsteps', will be held from today until February 10, from 9am to 5pm daily, on the first floor of Chiang Mai University Art Centre. This exhibition is organised by CMU Art Centre with the Embassy of Israel and Citylife magazine. For more information, visit yishay.com.